My recent concerns about the Cornell poll attracted some attention, and I wanted to address it as directly as I could. First, I don't consider myself a very political person. I think that conversation is for someone with a different mind-set than I have. Whether I'm around hard-core liberals or hard-core conservatives, I don't feel at home. If I had to make a choice in such a limited narrow band of choices, I'd probably say Moderate slightly left of center. Depends on the issues. Someone on my mailing list (Lifewriting) suggested that the Cornell study has been misinterpreted. I hope so. At any rate, here was my answer to his note:
thanks, Geoff. I don't think monitoring of Muslim groups is a bad thing. I think it is an unfortunate thing, a thing symptomatic of our thinking right now, and a dangerous trend. the alternative (not monitoring such groups) is possibly even more dangerous. We're in a this-or-that frame of mind right now (as opposed to this-AND-that), and edging into that territory we must be careful. It is absolutely predictable for people to behave this way under threat. The sadness comes from realizing this is a survival trait, and that those who don't think this way tend to end up slaughtered by those who do. Sigh. And unfortunately, it's probably not possible to do this while maintaining a high level of respect for Islam--what I hear on right-wing radio disturbs the hell out of me. But it's human, as human as men and women each thinking they are slightly superior in the Male-Female wars. That dualistic thinking troubles me, but there are no easy alternatives I can think of. I just want to be careful. Serpents lurk under the edge of the map, whether you tilt left or right. They're just slightly different serpents.
End of reply. I think that the "Right" and the "Left" have a tendency toward different diseases, and the further you go out on the edge, the more likely you are to sniffle. The disease of the Left is a moral relativism, a tend to include everyone and everything, and to suggest that there is no real right or wrong. Note that I'm not saying that Lefties are all infected with this. Just that when I hear someone beginning to speak like this, I can pretty much guess where their politics lie.
On the other hand, the disease of the Right is excessive exclusion, a tendency to label (for instance, I heard Conservatives use "Liberal" as a derogatory label about 10X more often than I heard Liberals, or "Progressives" specifically use "Conservative" as a derogatory label). More Us-versus-themism. And on that side of the aisle lurks a disturbing heirarchicalism. Almost every racist I've ever known came down on the Right side of the aisle. NOT that strict conservatives are all, or largely racist. But that a racist, cultural elitist or religious bigot is more likely to be conservative.
I see these two tendencies as being two sides of the same coin, and try to stay away from both. Try. I don't say I succeed. But people on both sides tend to think that they hold moral and intellectual superiority, and tend to deny the disease around them, even if they themselves are not infected.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Posted by Steven Barnes at 2:35 PM